Tag Archives: Urban Hikes

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (Autumn)

The parking area at Oaks Bottom is notorious for break-in’s and we had a problem with a man basically telling us he was going to break into our car as soon as we left, we even saw the slim jim in his backpack 🙄. We wont be parking in this main parking lot ever again, it’s too bad because this behavior may make it to where people don’t visit Oaks Bottom. We hope you still visit and we would recommend parking at Oaks Bottom Park.

Directions: From the intersection of SE 17th and Powell, head south on 17th. Cross Holgate and McLoughlin, and head into Sellwood. Turn right on SE Bybee. Bybee turns into SE 13th, follow 13th. Turn right onto Sellwood which veers into SE 7th. You’ll see the parking area for Oaks Bottom Park.

From the parking area get on the trail that heads downhill. Once at the end of this hill go right and go to a split in the trail. This hike can be done as a loop, going left here will get you on the Springwater Trail first, going right has you entering the refuge first. Either way you choose loops around and ends back at this junction. Fair warning…on the weekend there is a large train that runs right along the Springwater Trail and it is VERY loud. Because we were here during the time the train runs we decided to make this an out-and-back hike. We went right at the junction and entered into the refuge. You’ll immediately be following along a marshy area where there are a lot of water birds. We saw mallards, pintails, coots, and geese.

      

The trail switches from packed dirt and rocks to boardwalk as you follow along. There is a viewing platform out to the marsh and Oaks Park, we saw a few great blue herons and an eagle here. As we continued hiking we saw a brown creeper, bushtits, crows, scrub jays, a hummingbird, and golden-crowned sparrows.

      

The trail is very easy to follow and you will pass by the Portland Memorial Mausoleum, it has large paintings on it. Eventually you’ll come to a junction, you can turn around here or continue left and visit the tadpole pond.

      

This is a great hike for wildlife viewing and would be great for kids as well. The trail is very easy and there is a lot to look at along the way.

Distance: 2.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 150 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Warnings: Break-ins at the main parking area.

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (Autumn)

Directions: Take I-5 north to exit 14. Go left at the intersection after getting off the freeway. Follow the road for about 3 miles through downtown Ridgefield. Go right at an intersection with Main St and drive for about a mile until you see a sign for the Carty Unit of the Refuge. Follow the gravel road to the parking area.

      

Take the path that follows the bridge over the train tracks and curves down into the refuge. Following the path as it passes a plank house you can take a left a follow the trail that takes you by Duck Lake and winds back in to where you’ll come to a seasonal closure.

      

      

Back at the plank house stay straight/right and follow the trail until you see a side trail with a hiker marker on your right. Take this path through the trees and eventually come to Boot Lake. You can’t walk around the lake so keep following the main trail as you gain a bit of elevation and get a look down into the marshy wetland area. Loop back around and down where you will be back on the main trail that takes you back past the plank house to your car.

      

      

We saw many geese, trumpeter swans, robins, flickers, hawks, and scrub jays.

      

Since you’ve already paid the refuge entrance fee you should drive out of the Carty Unit and head for the ‘S’ Unit section of the Refuge. This is an auto tour from Oct- Apr and we really enjoyed it. We were able to see great blue herons, nutria, deer, hawks, a kestrel, and many small birds.

Make sure to pick up a brochure at the pay station/trailhead at the Carty Unit. It has maps of the whole refuge and lots of great information.

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 80 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $3 per car

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge (Autumn)

Directions: Take I-205 North to exit 27. Merge onto Highway 14 east and follow it for about 12 miles. Take a right at the sign for Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.

From the parking area pass the bathroom (there is a whiteboard on the side that has a list of wildlife people have seen recently, it’s worth a look) and get on the trail. You’ll pass a few interpretive signs and soon be following along next to a large open grassy/marshy area.

      

After passing by a couple branches of Steigerwald Lake you will enter a small wooded area. Here we saw a Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, and Brown Creeper.

      

      

Keep following the trail and you’ll come to a split in the trail, part of the refuge is closed October through April to protect winter birds. Go right and cross the bridge, in here we saw a Bald Eagle. Follow the trail to another bridge over Redtail Lake. We saw Northern Shovelers and Coots in the lake as well as a sleeping Nutria in the grass. You can continue on from here where the trail ends at the dike trail.

      

Head back the way you came in.

Distance: 2.25 miles (easy)

Elevation: None

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All. Part of the trail is closed Oct-Apr

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Powell Butte (Summer)

Directions: This hike starts at the Visitor Center, just off of 162nd and Powell in Southeast Portland.

From the parking area at the Visitor Center (just past the piano that’s free for the public to play!) get on the paved Mountain View Trail. You’ll follow this a short distance until you come to a gravel section in the trail, go right here and get onto Pipeline Lane. You’ll backtrack a bit and get a nice view of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens as you follow the thick gravel trail towards the north.

      

The trail gradually heads uphill and skirts along the tree line. Off to your left you can see the gated entrance to the underground reservoir. Soon you’ll come to an intersection in the trail, go right and get onto Holgate Lane where you enter the woods. Follow this dirt and rock trail through the woods at a fairly level grade. There is a giant metal pipe that lines most of this trail and does have leaky spots so year round there are muddy sections of the trail. Soon you’ll reach the Elderberry Stairs on your left, head up these somewhat steep steps that wind up the side of the hill.

      

Continue following the trail until you come to another junction. Go left here and get back on Pipeline Lane, you’ll follow this trail back out the way you came in with a view of Mt. Hood almost the whole way back.

      

Powell Butte is great for an after work hike or quick weekend outing. It does stay pretty busy year round no matter if it’s a weekday or weekend.

Make sure to pack your binoculars if you’re into wildlife viewing. There are lots of different birds, butterflies,and even deer.

 

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 180 (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Warnings: There are nettles along the trail in the woodsy areas.

Jackson Bottom Wetlands (Spring)

Directions: From downtown Portland take Highway 26 to exit 57 (Glencoe Road). Turn left and follow this road that  eventually turns into Hillsboro Highway for about 6 miles. You will see signs for Jackson Bottom. Take a left into the wetland, there is a building for the wetland and clean water services building with a parking area.

Before you head out grab a map at the information kiosk.

From the parking area head to the wooden staircase that takes you down to the Tualatin River. We followed along this trail for a while stopping at the viewpoints and ending at Vic’s Grove, there was a lot of wild rose and a few birds in this area. Head back from Vic’s Grove and go right at the fork where you walk along Kingfisher Marsh. You can’t see much of the marsh from this side, it’s got a lot of plant growth surrounding it. Soon you’ll reach a bridge over a small stream that takes you to Pintail Pond.

      

      

You can go all the way around Pintail Pond. We saw a good amount of birds here, there are a lot of swallow houses on poles so they are all over. Down along the edges of the pond we saw a family of spotted sandpipers and a few killdeer. As we continued on we came to a group of quail and a few mourning dove. They also have a huge osprey nest and we were able to see them flying around.

      

After finishing the Pintail Pond loop head back out and go north towards a bird blind that looks out over an unnamed marsh area. We saw a large group of american white pelicans as well as cormorants here. Keep following the main trail and go left where you walk in between two marsh areas. Here we saw a black-headed grosbeak and a sora. Keep following this trail uphill where it takes you to the education center and the parking area.

      

This is a great place for kids and bird watchers. There’s a lot of different areas that attract a good amount of birds.

Distance: 3 miles (easy)

Elevation: 130 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No, dogs are not allowed anywhere in Jackson Bottom.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area and in the education center.

Parking Fee: A $2 donation is recommended

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes on nice weekends

Warnings: None

Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge (Spring)

Directions: Take I-205 North to exit 27. Merge onto Highway 14 east and follow it for about 12 miles. Take a right at the sign for Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.

From the parking area get on the trail as it follows along a large open field with branches of Steigerwald Lake running through it. There were many different birds out in the grass and shrubs and some water birds in the stream. You will soon enter an area with more trees and a stream off to your right. When you get to the split, go left through the seasonal door (open May through September) and follow the trail as it goes along the field and enters a wooded area. There are lots of birds in this area as well.

      

      

You will round a corner and leave the refuge and get on the Columbia River Dike Trail. There are a lot of Purple Martin houses here and they are all flying around which is great. Go right on the trail and follow it a short distance where you will take a side trail and get back into the refuge. You’ll pass a tall interpretive sign and cross a bridge over Redtail Lake, here we saw a Cinnamon Teal, Mallards, and Canada Geese in the water. In the trees and grass lining the water we saw Red-Wing Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, and a Common Yellowthroat. After crossing the bridge you’ll enter and wooded area, we saw many birds here including an Osprey and Wilson’s Warblers.

      

      

      

There is another bridge that you cross and you’re back at the seasonal door. Go left and follow the trail back out the way you came in.

We were previously here in mid summer and it was nice but very hot. Spring is a great time, birds are nesting and very active, and the weather is great.

Distance: 3 miles

Elevation: None

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: No, dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Can be on nice weekends

Overall: Spring is a great time to visit this wildlife refuge

Mt. Tabor (Spring)

Directions: The main parking area is located on about 60th and Salmon in Southeast Portland

Mt. Tabor is one of Portland’s best parks. It offers a variety of well maintained trails, has a basketball and tennis court, you can see three unique reservoirs, and has a lot of opportunities for nature viewing.

There are maps at a kiosk area in the main parking lot. Mt. Tabor offers three marked trails (blue, green, and red) but has plenty of unmarked trails as well. For this post we are going to focus on the blue trail, which is the longest of the marked paths.

Starting at the parking area find the blue arrow that’s just a few steps past the basketball court. Follow the path through a wooded area downhill where it pops back up and you cross the road, heading down to the tennis courts. From here you walk around the first reservoir and follow the arrows to a steep staircase. Head up the stairs and you will reach the second reservoir, take the upper trail that’s lined with cherry blossom trees around the reservoir. Continue following the blue arrows downhill in a more wooded area that takes you to the third reservoir that you will go around and head up a short paved path.

      

      

The path ends at the road which you will get on and go right a short distance to the next arrow taking you uphill on a dirt trail. Follow this trail somewhat steeply uphill to the very top and take the paved loop to it’s west side and follow the trail back down past a play structure to the parking area.

      

      

You will get great views of downtown Portland quite a few times on the blue trail. You get to see all of the open air reservoirs and some very pretty blooming trees as well.

Mt. Tabor is pretty much always busy unless you are here really early on a weekday. Even then you will still see people walking dogs or on a morning run. So if you are looking for peace and quiet, this may not be the best place.

 

Distance: You can do a total of 5.7 miles on all of the marked trails (blue- 3 miles, green- 1.7, red-1)

Elevation: 350 feet

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Pet Friendly: Very

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great urban hike with lots to see!

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (Winter)

The Rhododendron Garden is located on 28th Avenue, across from Reed College in the Eastmoreland neighborhood.

This is more of a walk than a hike but it’s still a nice place to go to get outdoors for a while.

From the entrance take the paved path and switchback once where you go under a bridge and come to a pond. There are lots of ducks here and sadly it looks like the big willow tree that was by the bridge didn’t make it through the winter storms. Continue on the path and you will round a corner and start to see the golf course across the water. The path here is gravel and takes you to another pond with even more ducks, you may even see a nutria if you have the patience to hang around for a while.

      

      

After crossing the long bridge go left and down along the pond, pick up the path as it goes back up into the rhododendrons. There will be a fence and stream to your left and a grassy area to your right. As you continue to follow this trail it will round a corner and come to an area with cattails and reeds, you can see more of the golf course across the water here as well. Continuing around you’ll be following along the water as it loops back to the long bridge. From here just continue to follow the path back to your car. There are lots of side trails along the way to check out, the garden is beautiful and a great place to explore.

      

      

Some of the birds we saw were herons, ruddy ducks, mallards, humming birds, geese, coots, wigeons, and wood ducks.

Distance: 2 miles (you can do more or less, depends on which trails you take)

Elevation: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes but dogs must be leashed

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $5 entrance fee from March- September, except every Mon & Tues are free year round.

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great place for wildlife viewing, we need to go back during rhododendron season.

Browns Ferry Park (Winter)

Directions: Take I-5 to exit 289. Turn left onto Nyberg, follow the road a short distance and the park will be on your left.

This is a nice park for a quick walk, or a great place if you’re a birder.

      

From the parking area go over the bridge, follow the trail around to the left and you can quickly check out the big barn that’s in the park. Head back and down towards the pond, this is a great area to see birds. During our visit we were able to see a golden crowned sparrow, spotted towhee, gadwalls, northern shovelers, buffleheads, green winged teals, and pied-billed grebes. Continuing on, follow the path past the pond and across another bridge.

      

      

From here stick to the dirt path that follows along the river. We saw a woodpecker in here and you will pass by a few small marshy pond areas. The trail connects back out to a paved path briefly but you can get on the dirt trail again. Follow this for as long as you want. You get brief views of the Tualatin River and the houses that line it, but it’s mostly fairly wooded.

      

Head back out the way you came in.

 

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Can be on nice weekends.

Overall: This is a nice park, the pond attracts some great birds. Nice place for kids or an afterwork walk as well.

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (Winter)

Directions: Take I-5 South to exit 294. Get onto 99W/Barbur Boulevard and drive about 6.5 miles. Take a right into the Refuge.

From the parking area follow the trail down into a wide gravel path with trees. There are many side trails and benches with informational signs. The path goes down a small hill and over a bridge where you will start to follow along the Tualatin River. We’ve been getting a lot of rain lately and the river was definitely over it’s bank. There were large areas of the trail along the river that were flooded out and you needed to go way out into the grass to get around it.

      

There is a platform area that gives you a view of the river and has an informational sign. Continuing on you head toward a thicker wooded area. The trail was flooded out here and we couldn’t go any farther. If you are able to continue, the trail takes you out to a wetland observation deck. It gives you great views and there are usually lots of birds out this way.

      

Head back out the way you came in and make sure you check out the visitor center. There are a few telescopes that let you get a nice closeup view of the wetlands. As well as lots of interpretive stuff.

      

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: 60 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great place to do some birding.